The next person the Vibe team interviewed, is a long time tree man who rock and rolls in our backyard of the Garden State. Paul Biester. We asked him these questions.
- How many years have you been in the tree industry? What advice do you have for longevity as a business owner and yourself as a tree worker?
- We see that you are involved a lot with training classes. What advice do you have for students to become stewards of safety back in their workplace, especially when coming across non compliant workers who put down the right way to do things?
- Can you share a story that might make new or older tree guys and girls reconsider how they approach work everyday? It can be something you went through or a story you heard from a fellow tree person.
Here are the awesome answers he provided for all of us:
1) I started in the tree business in 1984 as a groundie. I would say there are a few things that stick out to me regarding longevity and what it takes to last 30 plus years. Number one, without a doubt is the mental aspect or edge. People think its great working outside and say things like, “it must be great,” or “I’m stuck at a desk!” That works until you’ve been grinding for 3 months in 90 plus degree summer heat and humidity (and you got the wicked case of the chafe!!). Or you are hanging from a cold steel crane hook and its 10 degrees, but you gave your word that you’d get the job done!
This is where two things come into play. First thing is your passion for your work, for being outside and for your team. The second thing (an unspoken key) is your ability to renew, reinvent, or refresh yourself. A few things that work for me, in no particular order are: A new piece of gear or new technique. Taking on professional development in the form of a class or seminar or certification. Surrounding yourself with others who share your passion, passion is infectious and others can raise your vibration!!! Trade shows, like the TCIA expo. Or, simply stepping away and taking a vacation. These things are needed when, or slightly before you hit the wall. You simply must KNOW yourself!!!
Treat your body as a temple, like the Bible says. Again, KNOW yourself. Food is fuel. Crap in, you’ll crap out!!! If you want to perform, be available and be able to recover, you MUST eat high quality nutrient dense foods. No crap. I eat NO refined sugar, and nothing made with white flour. I could launch into depth here but, I’ll leave it at this, you can not eat lunch meat on white bread washed down with a coke and expect to be on top of your game for an extended career. If you smoke, quit!!! If you drink, cut back.
2) On the workplace safety I will say this, I do not think the old school model of policies and catching people doing things wrong and punishing them is a great method. Although to some degree it has worked with things like getting people to wear hardhats, its not the end-all and quite frankly, I feel its antiquated. I think the preferred method is to take accountability for your own safety, but also others safety and well being should come from a place of love and caring. We are in one of the highest risk industries. I genuinely care about my teammates and want them to go home, whole, to their loved ones every night. If I have to, I will put my arm around someone and look them in the eye and say, “Hey! I never wanna have to call your family and tell them there was an accident…Please wear your shit!!!”
Also, the safety meetings should be tactile, hands on with examples. Written meetings have their place, but to drive the point home, show a video or better yet, do a demo. Safety should be woven into the cultural fiber of the business. Leaders MUST LEAD on this topic to show its importance, period! This should purge out the non conformists.
3) I think I’ll drive home the safety point here. As aforementioned, this is year 33 for me. I have seen a guy take forty stitches to the forehead from a bow saw kickback (back in the day when they were still legal). I saw the same guy saved by a rope my old boss feverishly tied to his rear loop as he climbed a tree with the bark peeling off and telling our boss, “I don’t need that!” I had a guy who wanted to free climb but I set a line for him, good thing cause he was swarmed by bees and was able to descend. I had a large poplar fail beneath my feet with me in the tree but I was tied into an adjacent tree. Needless to say, I have seen my share of crap.
I have noticed that this is a business loaded with big egos and fearless men. I have also noticed that there is really no place here for either thing!!! You can be confident, self assured without arrogance and you can have a healthy fear with amazing courage. What I have noticed over the years is that bad patterns of behavior and unsafe work practices repeated are responsible for many injuries. We simply must learn the proper methods that put us in safe positions and repeat those. Dr. John Ball says rookies get hurt because of inexperience and veterans get hurt because of complacency. One key to not allowing this to happen (and it has worked for me) is to treat every single task anew. Work the process. Start with a plan, execute the plan. Repeat the safe work practices, EVERY SINGLE TIME. NO room for complacency! If you drop your guard, you WILL get punched and it could cost you your life. Also in regard to teammates, if you see something odd or that doesn’t look right, SAY something! Period. The bond between workmates should be such that there is no inhibition between people, so saying something is encouraged.
So to recap:
- Put our egos in check,
- Allow healthy fear and be of good courage,
- Learn safe and best practices. Repeat them and NEVER BE complacent,
- Develop healthy and safe work place behavior,
- If you see something, SAY something!!!
Paul, thank you so much for the time you took to offer up insightful information that we all can use! We wish you many more successful years and look forward to seeing you around soon. Climb on and climb safe!